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Breaking The Seal - Spartantiques Collectors Corner

Dating artifacts from Michigan State sports memorabilia by learning the history of the school seal.


I love a good mystery.

“How old is that?” is a common question in the collecting community.

Artifacts emblazoned with the Michigan State Seal have an interesting background that can help you answer that question. Here’s a quick history lesson that will help you become a collector detector.

The official name of Michigan State has changed at least six times:

Feb 12 1855 Agricultural College of the State of Michigan

Mar 15 1861 State Agriculture College

June 2 1909 Michigan Agricultural College

May 13 1925 Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science

July 1 1955 Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science

Jan 1 1964 Michigan State University

Prior to 1926, M.A.C. used the intertwined letters, popular on current Michigan State Basketball throwback uniforms, or the State Board of Agriculture as a seal.

 Made by F.L. Bennett & Co
1907 M.A.C. Bronze Seal Plaque
Spartantiques Collection

Originally created in 1926 by John Sunderlin, MSC Liberal Arts student, the official seal of Michigan State has slightly changed over the years to coincide with these name changes. College Hall, the first building in America dedicated to the study of agricultural science, is always featured on the seal:

1926-1934 MSC “ESTABLISHED 1857” SEAL

MSC Felt Patch
Spartantiques Collection

Michigan State has always prided itself as the “Pioneer Land Grant College.”

In 1934, MSC received an inquiry from the University of Maryland challenging that notion, asking “Why was MSC older when Maryland was established in 1856?” MSC officials explained that 1857 was the first year the school offered classes. However, 1855 was the year of legal founding, a date most schools used as their establishment.

The board quickly changed the seal to read “Founded 1855” and established February 12, 1855 as the official founding, ten days before Pennsylvania Agricultural School (Penn State University).

1934-1955 MSC “FOUNDED 1855” SEAL

Spartantiques Collection


On it’s Centennial Anniversary, Michigan State was allowed to drop the College and become a University, but in a compromise, must keep the Agriculture and Applied Science tag until 1964 when it was allowed to be known as Michigan State University.

MSU Pennant
Spartantiques Collection


Current MSU Seal

Armed with a little knowledge and reason, you too can “Seal the Deal” on dating Michigan State artifacts.

For your first case - What’s wrong with this recent eBay offering?

Final Exam
eBay Photo


Every name change at Michigan State was met with opposition from the University of Michigan.

For a detailed history, I recommend The Student and his Professor by David J. Young for your Spartan Library.

Go Green!

Be sure to check out my first article: The Original Only Colors

History Book
Spartantiques Collection